Monthly Archives: April 2009

Calvin Catechism: Fri Apr 24: No Merit at All


Fri Apr 24 Q 116: No Merit at All


116. But are all our works so reprobate that they cannot merit grace before God?
First, all that we do of ourselves, by our own nature, is vicious, and therefore cannot please God. He condemns them all.


I have yet to meet the person who is glad and eager to be told how bad he is of himself. It is our very badness that causes us to reject wanting to be told the true nature of our badness—which itself reveals the true nature of our badness, our evil, our reprobation. “No one who does good,” (Rom 3:12). We are so evil inherently that we cannot see how bad we are and do not wish to be told how bad we are. All that we do is vicious, extremely evil, for it comes from people who have evil hearts. Visibly we might do works that are good on a comparative scale of human measurement; some of our works might be compassionate toward those in need. However, before God, our works are the works of evil people. Our works cannot please God.


Grace, by nature, removes the need for merit. While some theological systems offer an oxymoronic “meritorious grace,” such a concept of grace differs vastly from the biblical concept of favor that comes as a gift that also enables us to do his will. It is that sort of grace that comes through Christ – because the Father honors his work on the Cross – which we need. For any so-called works of merit would still be classified as “vicious works of merit” or “works of vicious merit.” Works of that type do not merit grace; they need simply for grace to be grace. For whether they are works or meritorious works, they earn nothing before God when they come from creatures that are vicious by nature, for God condemns them and finds no merit in them at all.





Live Blogging The Gospel Coalition Conference: Keller Cited Resources

Idolatry by Halbertal

I am not live blogging the TGC Conference, but I am greatly enjoying the singing, worship, times of fellowship with my brothers and co-laborers in the Gospel. The conferene has already paid for itself by the sermon from Tim Keller on defeating the idols of our culture from Acts 17 and 19, and the sermon from John Piper on having “white-hot-hot-hot-HOT” courage for the Gospel from 2 Tim 1. I am thankful for the faithfulness of these men.

Keller made references to two lesser known resources. Here they are:

Idolatry  (Harvard, 1992), by Moshe Halbertal and Avashai Margalit.

“Soul Idolatry Excludes Men Out of Heaven,” by David Clarkson (1621-1686), found at the Monergism site.

While at Monergism, also note the publication of  The Gospel as Taught by Calvin, (Banner, 2009) by R. C. Reed.

Calvin Catechism: Sat April 18 Q. 110: No Mention of Hell?



Sat April 18 Q. 110: No Mention of Hell?


110. Why then is eternal life only spoken of here, and hell not at all?
Because nothing is set down in this summary that does not tend to the consolation of faithful consciences. It relates to us only the benefits which God performs for His servants. Accordingly no mention is made of the wicked, who are excluded from His Kingdom.


It would seem that the logic of the Catechism’s commentary on the Creed is this: Since the wicked shall not inherit the kingdom of God (cf. Jn 3:5; I Cor 6:9-10; Gal 5:21; Eph 5:5), and since the Creed was written for those included in the kingdom of God—those who profess, “I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth; and in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord…”—the wicked are excluded from discussion in the Creed. Most obviously the Catechism and the writers of the Creed were not concerned about being politically correct, or religious inclusivists, or universalists, or promoters of tolerance for religious pluralists in matters of Truth. The Creed was concerned with “the consolation of faithful consciences.” The Creed allowed no place for soothing the consciences of the reprobate or apostate, for to sooth them would be to risk their souls’ eternal hope.



Similarly, the place where the Creed is most joyfully acknowledged – in the company of the saints in gathered worship – is also for the consolation of faithful consciences to the exclusion of reprobate and apostate consciences (cf. I Cor. 5:9-13; Jude 1:3, 19-23). The knowledgeable and intentional singing of praises to God, the understanding of and adherence to preaching, the honoring of the public reading of Scripture, the saying of “amen” to prayers, and participation in the Lord’s Supper all belong to the communion of the saints. There are unbelievers present among most public services of the righteous, and it is the duty of the church and its leaders to proclaim the Gospel to the lost, urging them to believe upon Christ immediately and cast themselves on the mercy of God. However, gathered worship is for those who worship in Spirit and in truth.



Acknowledgement of the proper company of the assembling of the saints will save us from offering the wrong sort of solace for the damned. When they are in the place where the Creed is read, they should sense that the place is for “members only,” that is, members of Christ, humbling living in holiness in and by His grace. If we hope for them to feel anything, it should be conviction of sin and fear of eternal judgment. Those outside of Christ should not be given consolation for unfaithful consciences if we, the faithful, hope to see any of them in the kingdom.



Recommended resources: Ryken, The Communion of the Saints: Living in Fellowship with the People of God, and Dever, The Gospel and Personal Evangelism.



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Calvin Catechism: Fri Apr 17 Q. 109: The Resurrection of the Unjust


Fri Apr 17 Q. 109: The Resurrection of the Unjust

109. Will this resurrection not be common to the evil and the good?
Yes indeed, but not in the same way. Some will rise to salvation and joy, others to condemnation and death (John 5:29; Matt. 25:46).


How glorious it will be to be raised from the dead bodily (just like our Lord Jesus) unto life eternal! Of this, the Catechism expresses certainty (Q. 107-108). How odd, however, it will seem that the wicked too will be raised from the dead. Should they too get a pass out of the grave? Why should they simply not perish in annihilation, or as souls forever trapped in watery-like graves, or in the ranks of Hades forever?


Those who spurn the Son of God and his mercy, reject the immanent visitation of the transcendent Creator (cf. Ps. 8; Jn 1:14), and thus remain in their unholy state must stand before their Maker and Judge in judgment. They must hear the crimes for which they are charged, enter the only plea they will be able to enter in eternity—“guilty,” and be sentenced accordingly with a penalty that measures to the debt of rejecting the glory of God. They must be given a capacity to endure the punishment of eternal damnation for rejecting eternal glory.


The wicked will share a common resurrection with the saints: they will be raised bodily. The wicked will not share common joy: resurrection until life eternal and the very presence of God. It only appears in the present that the wicked are prospering without end. They will be resurrected in order for the Creator to deal with their sins eternally. How horrible it will be to experience the wrath of God bodily.




New Jersey Pastors’ and Lay Leaders’ Conference 2009


The Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals and Bread of Life Fellowship announce registration for the New Jersey Pastors’ and Lay Leaders’ Conference, June 22-24, 2009. I am grateful that apologist James White graciously agreed to join us. From Bread of Life Fellowship:

April 14, 2009

 Dear Pastors, church leaders, and friends,

 Where can we find genuine hope in a world that appears to be falling apart at the seams?

 In critical eras in human history, in the midst of war, disease, poverty and persecution, the people of God have often turned to find solace in our God, who is reveals Himself as absolutely sovereign in His eternal decrees and purposes. One such time was 1939 during the rise of Adolph Hitler and the dawn of the Second World War. In June of that year, a number of pastors and ministers of the Gospel were compelled to hold a Conference in Paterson , New Jersey to celebrate the Sovereignty of God.

 It is our distinct honor to invite you on behalf of our church, several pastors and churches in Northern New Jersey, and the Allinace of Confessing Evangelicals, to Haledon , NJ (on Paterson ’s northern border) to a special and historic conference to honor, remember The Sovereignty of God Conference on its 70th year anniversary. We wish to give thanks to God and honor the men from our past who prayed for the understanding of God’s sovereign grace in our area.

 Toward this end, six local pastors, joined by two key note speakers (Dr. James White and Rev. Eric Redmond) are gathering together from June 22-24, 2009 to encourage the church at this most anxious time in our nation, that we can fully trust a sovereign God who has lovingly and providentially ordained human history for His glory and the good of His people.

 Space is limited and registration is required ($35 per person or $25 for a group of 5 or more). You may register at,,PTID307086%7CCHID564292%7CCIID2471016,00.html or by calling 1-800-956-2644. If you have any questions about the conference, feel free to contact me. I can be reached in my study at 201-907-0300 or via e-mail here or at

 Sincerely in Christ,

 Pastor Joseph E. LoSardo

 On behalf of the elders ofBread of Life Fellowship, Haledon, NJ; Hope Evangelical Free Church, Sussex, NJ;  Englewood Baptist Church, Englewood, NJ; Mt. Carmel Church (OPC),Somerset, NJ; Trinity Baptist Church, Montville, NJ

Calvin Catechism: Fri April 10 Q 101-102: A Collision of Holy and Unholy


Fri April 10 Q 101-102: A Collision of Holy and Unholy


101. What comes next?
I believe in “the forgiveness of sins”.


102. What do you understand by this word “forgiveness”?
That God by His pure goodness forgives and pardons the sins of believers, so that they are not brought to account before His judgment, in order to be punished.

I will step outside of the Catechism for a moment to go to another resource to begin the discussion on the Catechism’s questions on forgiveness. In “The Problem of Forgiveness,” Stott writes,


It is not why God finds it difficult to forgive, but how he finds it possible to forgive at all… Or, in the words of Carnegie Simpson, “forgiveness is to man the plainest of duties; to God it is the profoundest of problems.” The problem of forgiveness is constituted by the inevitable collision between divine perfection and human rebellion, between God as he is and us as we are. The obstacle to forgiveness is neither our sin alone, nor our guilt alone, but also the divine reaction in love and wrath toward guilty sinners. (John R. W. Stott, “The Problem of Forgiveness” in The Cross of Christ [Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1986]: 88.)


We deserve punishment for our sins. We are debtors with a price to pay, lawless ones, transgressors of laws and commandments, and people who have missed the mark of God’s perfection. We have not broken simple human laws made by other people full of sin; we have failed to reach the standards commanded by the Holy and Righteous One. We have enjoyed disobeying him (for no one does anything for any motivation other than pleasure). We have no means by which to repay our debts, and we have no right to an appeal for a second look at the socio-environmental factors that might lead to a not-guilty-by-reason-of-insanity-acquittal. We are guilty and should be brought into account before God’s just judgments, and there should be no means by which we should be forgiven as the Judge’s responsibility to uphold his laws runs into our willful, happy rebellion at full speed.


The Catechism’s truth is our only hope: “God by His pure goodness forgives and pardons the sins of believers.” God supplied for himself Abraham’s (sacrificial) lamb (Gen 22:8); God himself was pleased to bruise the Servant (Isa 53:10); God put forth Christ as a propitiation by blood (Rom 3:24-25); God made him who knew no sin to be sin for us (2 Cor 5:21). God himself is the basis of our forgiveness. It is he who sees the collision and runs into the wreckage — Eph 2:3—we have been in a wrath-wreckage from birth! – with the blood and emptied tomb of Christ to pull us from the death that certainly would be ours from the smashing of the completely holy into the absolutely unholy.


Rejoice, you holy ones, rejoice! For God has forgiven us because of God, not us!




Calvin Catechism: Fri April 3 Q 94-95 The Necessity of the Church



Fri April 3  Q 94-95 The Necessity of the Church


94. Is it necessary to believe this article?
Yes, indeed, unless we want to make the death of Christ of none effect, and all that has already been said. The fruit that proceeds from it is the Church.


95. You mean then that up to this point we have spoken of the cause and foundation of salvation, how God has received us in love through the mediation of Jesus, and has confirmed this grace in us through His Holy Spirit. But now the effect and fulfillment of all this is explained in order to give us greater certainty.
It is so.


Occasionally I run into a professing believer who curiously explains to me that he or she has no membership among a local body of believers, nor does he or she intend to, for it in not necessary to have membership in a church in order to be a Christian. I understand that the individual’s belief might be rooted in an experience in which he/she was wounded among a fellowship of believers, and then justified his/her distance from the church by the absence of a command in Scripture that says, “thou shalt be a member of a church and attendeth weekly.” I am sensitive to such people’s pains and pray for grace to be sufficient to lead them a healthy body of believers. However, when it comes to historic Christianity, as seen in the Catechism, the notion that someone can be a believer without membership in a church is foreign to orthodoxy and the Scriptures.


The elect are “[the] firstfruits of his creatures,” having been “brought forth by the word of truth” (Ja 1:18). We are also his body, “the fullness of Him who fills all in all” (Eph 1:22). The writers of Scripture assume that we are a corporate people, part of the church. We must “believe this article” if we are to agree with the whole counsel of God. It is through the church that we gain “certainty” in our salvation, as the Spirit works among us to speak to us through preaching, sanctify us in fellowship among other believers, and use our gifts in the body to serve one another. The affect of Christ’s death is to form a people who “proclaim the excellencies of him who called [them]” (cf. I Pet 2:4-10).


If we do not believe in the church – with the local being mysteriously united to the universal and invisible – in effect we do not believe in Christ’s death for us. Instead, we must believe in the Church, expressing such believe in vibrant membership among a local body of believers. Therein is where he awaits us to have a personal relationship with the one who died and rose again for us—a relationship that even can provide healing for wounds that occurred among God’s people.